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Nov '23

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Build A Death Domain Cleric – TheGamer

A dark and divine path awaits.
Death is the absence of being: the permanent end. Many creatures in Dungeons & Dragons fear the twilight hours of their lives, waiting fearfully for their final breaths and stuttering deaths. Then, there are those who revere it.
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Clerics who worship the concept of death may be mistrusted among other holy sects. This could be due to their honor of the forces that cause death (such as murder, war, and disease) or because the afterlife they represent is arcane even to the most magical of folk. Mostly, however, suspicion arises from the way death clerics use necromantic and negative energies to bring about their divine power.
Here are some ideas for a god your Death Cleric may worship:
Naralis Analor
The lesser elven deity of suffering, the relief of pain, healing, and death. He seeks to ensure that elven souls reach their proper afterlives and characterizes himself as being cold and aloof.
Myrkul
Myrkul was god of decay and exhaustion, as well as the dead. Once a mortal necromancer, he ascended to that of a god beside Bane and Bhaal. Quiet and frightening, his presence was once feared and felt throughout the realms.
Bhaal
The Lord of Murder was popularized in the game Baldur's Gate 3, though his origins were much the same as Myrkul's. Violence and ritualistic killing make up two prominent means of the worship of Bhaal.
Loviatar
Known primarily as the Maiden of Pain, Loviatar believes that suffering is the purest form of worship and frequently delights in the pain her followers inflict upon themselves in her honor.
Also known as "The Vengeful Banshee," she is the lesser drow goddess of undeath and revenge. She was driven mad long ago and prefers the company of spirits to the living.
Kelemvor
The quiet, neutral god of the dead, Kelemvor follows the streak of mortals who became gods of the dead upon their ascension. Kelemvor encourages death as a natural part of life, believing it is something to be understood rather than feared. His clergy defends people from perishing before their time and tends to the last wishes of the dying.
Your cleric need not be limited to a god. Some clerics hold to and gain power from ideals or systems of belief. Your Death Cleric may be satisfied to worship the concept of dying over an actual divine being!
The Death Cleric is a class highly focused on damage and eliminating enemies from the playing field. Your features will reflect this as early as first level.
Bonus Proficiency
When you choose this domain, you will receive proficiency with martial weapons.
Your second ability grants you a necromancy cantrip from any spell list in the game.
Reaper
If you cast a necromancy cantrip that normally targets only one creature, it can target two creatures within range if they are within five feet of one another.
At second level, you gain the Channel Divinity ability, which allows you to channel necrotic energy to sap life from an enemy through touch alone.
Channel Divinity: Touch of Death
Upon hitting a creature with a melee attack, you can deal extra necrotic damage equal to 5 + twice your cleric level. This tacks on extra damage to whatever damage you’ve already dealt.
At sixth level, your damage becomes more egalitarian with Inescapable Destruction, allowing you to skirt around resistances.
Inescapable Destruction
Any necrotic damage you deal ignores resistance to necrotic damage.
When you hit eighth level, you can deal necrotic damage after making a weapon attack.
Divine Strike
Upon hitting a creature with a weapon attack, you can deal a 1d8 necrotic damage to the target. This feature can be used once on each of your turns. If you reach fourteenth level, your extra damage will increase to 2d8.
This is one of the few features for a cleric that does not rely on spellcasting alone, actively encouraging a melee build. To get the full mileage out of this feature, consider gearing your character towards a Dexterity build.
At seventeenth level, you gain an improvement to your first-level ability.
Improved Reaper
You can cause a necromancy spell to target two creatures instead of its regular range of one, provided the spell only targets one creature in the first place. The creatures should be within five feet of one another to use this feature.
If the spell requires material components, you must have them on hand for both targets. So, a spell that consumes 5 gold to cast singularly would be 10 gold when doubled.
Wisdom is your spellcasting modifier and is imperative for your Cleric to be effective in combat— which, if you’re playing a death cleric, you should ensure you’re going to be. Put your highest ability score here.
Dexterity will be the next best ability score to focus on. If you can choose a weapon that uses Dexterity (such as a weapon with the finesse property) for your Divine Strike feature, then you should.
This can obviously be swapped for Strength, but it’s not going to be as efficient as Dexterity, which also provides a bonus to your armor class as a cleric.
Your next highest ability score should be Constitution for the sake of your hit point maximum. Then you’ll move your next few ability scores among Intelligence, Strength, and Charisma, depending on what you’ll prioritize.
As so many skill checks revolve around a decent Intelligence or Charisma score, you may be more inclined to lean towards either of those for your fourth-highest ability score.
Aasimar is practically a given, as their resistance to necrotic and radiant damage is both useful and thematic. The dragonborn and satyr’s resistances will also be useful, leaving you free to avoid taking spells or cantrips (such as Resistance) that may take up a spell slot in a pinch.
In terms of spellcasting, all subraces of genasi may be of particular use to you, as they’ll expand your spell list. In particular, Earth Genasi’s access to Pass Without A Trace may come in handy to your party. Deep Gnome may also be a good choice for spellcasting, as access to Disguise Self gives you a spell you can use situationally.
Goliath is also a good choice for Death Cleric if you’re looking to utilize your Divine Strike feature and play a melee build, as Stone’s Endurance will make you a more durable character. Hill Dwarf may also be an ideal choice if you want to improve your durability.
Guidance for ability checks, Sacred Flame for radiant damage, and Toll the Dead for necrotic power are the ideal cantrips.
Cantrip
Description
Guidance
Guidance adds a d4 to every ability check, and it can be spammed. This is a great choice regardless of domain.
Sacred Flame
An on-hand source of radiant damage. Every hostile creature you can see within range takes 1d6 radiant damage if they fail a Constitution saving throw.
Toll the Dead
You're going to want a source of necrotic damage, so you can use your feature to double it. This is a pretty incredible combination, especially with the 1d8 (1d12 if the creature is injured prior) damage.
As a cleric, you'll have the ability to swap out your spells after every long rest for other cleric spells. Here are a couple you may find useful.
Spell
Description
Guiding Bolt
Guiding Bolt deals a lot of radiant damage at early levels and gives your allies advantage on their next attacks. It's good to have a source of radiant damage in the event a creature is immune to your necrotic damage, especially before your sixth-level feature kicks in.
Healing Word
A ranged healing spell. Even on the damage-focused death cleric, this will help. The spell casts a bonus action and provides d4 to the healing.
Inflict Wounds
A melee spell. Most clerics won't get much mileage out of it, despite the amount of damage it deals, but the Death Cleric may theoretically already be within melee range. On a hit, the target will take 3d10 necrotic damage which synergizes beautifully with Touch of Death. You'll do an obscene amount of damage at early levels.
You will also receive a couple of spells geared towards your subclass as you level!
Level
Spell
First
False Life
Ray of Sickness
Third
Blindness/Deafness
Ray of Enfeeblement
Fifth
Animate Dead
Vampiric Touch
Seventh
Blight
Death Ward
Ninth
Antilife Shell
Cloudkill
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Brooke spent her life watching other people play the games she wanted to play until a friend finally handed her the controller. She never recovered. Now a freelance writer with a Bachelor’s in Writing and a minor in History, Brooke spends most of her free time analyzing if a game’s world and lore ‘works’ when she isn’t mentally traversing the Forgotten Realms.

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